As tourists we were taken to see working farms, schools and study centres. We bought sweets for the children in carefully orchestrated meetings. We saw children play in bands and we were invited to dance with them. I have no idea what they thought of the foreigners who they treated like royalty but we did have a good time.
Then we saw some more traditionally tourist sights.
The Pyongyang metro is deep enough to be used as a bomb shelter if necessary. Its based on the Russian metro system. The stations are decorated with scenes of happy citizens enjoying life under the great leader. The stations are much grander than the trains.
This ship was captured in 1968 when the Koreans claimed it was an American spy ship invading their territorial waters. Now tourists are taken round and it is displayed as a symbol of American aggression.
We were taken to places outside Pyongyang along the endless concrete highways with no other traffic. The Koreans are keen for you to see what they consider the best parts of their country but arrangements mysteriously change for no apparent reason. Our trip to see the Pyongyang film studios disappeared without trace despite previously promising us it was an amazing experience. Mount Kumgang also became “unavailable” at short notice. But we did see lots of interesting things.
We stayed at the Kaesong Folk Hotel which was – memorable. We slept on the floor on a very thin mattress and a rice pillow. It was stiflingly hot but we had a fan until the power cut out at midnight. The hotel is very attractive, it’s built around a stream in traditional hanok style. So there must be mountains at the back and running water at the front. They locked us in after dinner until breakfast time. In the morning we could hear loud speakers waking the workers up. The meal was served in a traditional style so we had to sit on the floor but it was a good meal. There was no hot water but we were there for only one night so the discomfort kind of added to the experience.
King Kongmin’s Tomb
The only traditional tourist site we visited. A fourteenth century mausoleum. The statues of sheep and tigers represent gentleness and fierceness. There is a spirit road to the tomb lined by statues of military officers.
We left North Korea by train into China not understanding much more than when we arrived. We were treated kindly and saw lots. It was a great holiday and everyday was interesting but I can’t say I understand much about North Korea.